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Stephens benefits from positive attitude in WTA Finals debut

26 October, 2018, 06:28 | Author: Lora Ball
  • WTA Finals: Sloane Stephens beats Naomi Osaka in Singapore

Both women are making their debuts at the season-ending event, and it was the American who opened Red Group action with a win.

The early match began tentatively with three consecutive breaks of serve falling in the German's favour as Osaka looked to dictate with her power, while Kerber was content to counter-punch off the back foot and keep the ball in play.

Osaka - who shocked Serena Williams to claim this year's grand slam in NY - fought back from a set down only to fade badly down the stretch, allowing Stephens to pick up the first points in the Red Group.

An error-prone Osaka struggled with her rhythm and faded badly against Stephens, who won 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 in two hours and 25 minutes.

Sloane Stephens secured a 7-5 4-6 6-1 victory over Japan's Naomi Osaka in a battle between the last two US Open champions at the WTA Finals.

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The world number four was visibly frustrated several times and dropped her racquet in disgust after failing to close out the second set in the ninth game.

Pliskova's coach Rennae Stubbs urged her to "stay disciplined" in the next changeover and the Czech heeded the advice to curb her attacking instincts as she ended Kvitova's tournament by holding serve to take the opener in 41 minutes. "I think she played really well, and I think she deserved to win the match", she added.

Osaka followed up her win at Flushing Meadows with a run to the Pan Pacific Open final in Tokyo and China Open semi-finals but the 21-year-old admitted that she had started to experience problems with her serve in Beijing.

However, she insisted that she has no regrets over her defeat, saying, "Usually after I lose, I have very specific things that I think would have changed the match". I tried to regroup as best I could and played just like I was playing before.

A demoralised Stephens had no answer and her slump continued into the deciding set where she was broken in the second game.

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"I just think here for some reason, I can't get the timing of the ball on the court, on the groundstrokes or the serves".

However, Osaka fought back to earn two break points and levelled the match at 5-5 with a brilliant forehand victor.

Before Monday, Osaka had won 14 of her previous 16 matches to be the in-form player coming into the season-finale.

Stephens, ranked sixth in the world, overcame an error-filled performance that included handing away a service break with five straight faults before clinching the first set.

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